by Krista Minar
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Original Article: Click Here
Originally Published: November 2012
It was certainly no secret to me that many women and their babies struggle with breastfeeding. Luckily, women are talking about it more which, in turn, seems to have led to a lot more support and understanding for those to whom breastfeeding does not come easily.
Being more aware made the process of preparing for my first baby that much easier. Between parents, aunts, a sister-in-law, my midwife and nurse practitioner, I could forgo the panic of striking through the ridiculous amount of hits to “breastfeeding problems” on the internet by listening and perusing through the odd book.
I figured, before my little one was even born, on a plan of attack of sorts. I armed myself with knowledge, and I mentally and emotionally prepared myself for the endless possibilities that could occur. I was determined to be as relaxed as possible.
Isn’t that how it often goes? We have a vision of how we want and hope it to be?
So you know where this is going then, don’t you?!
I was familiar with the fact that each baby often has a “type” or “personality” that can explain their feeding habits. For example, you might get the “chronic dozer” (requiring finesse just to keep them awake long enough to get a full belly), the “tongue flicker” (requiring patience to keep them latched on), the “power sucker” (ouch), the “too-excited-to-eat feeder,” the “snacker,” and if you’re lucky, the “barracuda eater”—a mother’s dream—the child who feeds anytime, anywhere. Oh yes, and if that wasn’t enough, you could get combinations of any and all of the above at any point.
That’s just the beginning. You might get a child who is sensitive to certain temperatures, or a certain degree of light, certain fabrics, certain sounds or presences…to name only a few possible challenges.
Then of course there are other complications: milk doesn’t come in, too much milk comes in and you are swollen beyond belief, sore nipples, infection, the dreaded “M” word (mastitis), which for some moms can lead to the inability to breastfeed altogether.
Let’s not forget the fact that once we have mastered (or managed) these complications, then we have to begin (eventually) the process of weaning.
For you moms-to-be, I promise, I’m not trying to scare you. As daunting as it may sound, it’s all manageable and truly, there are lots of places to go for resources and support.
My daughter was a snacker and a total tongue flicker. After a few weeks, though, I resolved that it was just her way and we grew accustomed to our own unique schedule. The flicking eventually wore off once she got more practice. I managed to avoid mastitis and any other infections that could have made nursing difficult. In every respect I had what seemed to be a fairly average child, with average problems that took average solutions and some patience.
That was until she hit about 11 months old.
I had a plan, you see. I heard the stories, I knew that weaning was a process, could take weeks, months…years even. I had conceived again once my daughter was nine months old so I had even prepared myself for possible tandem feeding. I was going to slowly start weaning her after her first birthday and see how it went. I figured I’d get it down to one feeding a day, in the morning. Then maybe I’d start skipping days, then only for comfort as needed. If I was lucky, maybe she’d be weaned before her sibling was born.
Anyone else notice the number of I’s that started off every one of those thoughts?
I was prepared for that child.
At 11 months old, feeding had suddenly become quite the challenge. I would wake her up, and settle her down at the breast for a feed and she would become agitated. So I would try again in the afternoon to no avail. I could not interest her. I could not get her to settle down to feed. I tried feeding her at all sorts of hours, for two weeks, I fought with her, confused at her sudden disinterest.
I reflected on the stories I’d heard, of the struggles women had in weaning their children at 16, 17, 18 months. I started reading about feeding strikes and looking for answers anywhere I could.
It was emotionally draining. I couldn’t understand what was happening. My daughter didn’t seem to be fitting my understanding of the process she was “supposed” to go through. Then I took a step back and realized that I was putting all this pressure on her, to feed, when clearly she was done.
Truth be told, I was heartbroken.
I had clearly missed the signs that now seem so obvious. And while I may not have been ready to stop feeding—or even begin to wean—she was. I wasn’t emotionally ready to break the bond that is formed so securely around mother and child during the breastfeeding months.
She had made this decision, and I had absolutely no control over it.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Everything that I had heard led me to believe I was in the long haul for breastfeeding.
Didn’t she need me anymore?
As time passed I realized that of course my daughter still needs me, she still crawls or walks to me when hurt, needs me to hold her when she cries, or just for a cuddle. I am still just as essential to her life as I was the day before.
The panic, the hurt, the broken-hearted feeling was quickly replaced with a feeling of pride. This was one little step to her growing up and that, after all, is the point, isn’t it?
I’m quickly learning that whenever I have an idea of how things are “supposed” to turn out, especially when it comes to my child, I need to be prepared for my expectations to be smashed. My first breastfeeding experience was not what I expected. It was, however, something that my daughter and I share that is uniquely our experience.
I have also learned that, whatever my experience was first time around, I am sure to be surprised with the next one.
Krista Minar, mother of one and expecting another, is constantly in search of balance.
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